Despite the US government's skepticism of Hamid Karzai's leadership, a majority of Afghans feel their embattled president is doing an "excellent" or "good" job, a new poll says.
More than six in 10 respondents feel Karzai is doing an "excellent" or "good" job, the poll conducted by The Washington Post, ABC News, the British Broadcasting Corp. and ARD television of Germany says.
Fifty-nine per cent of Afghans said they believe their country is headed in the right direction, a drop of 11 percentage points from a year ago, the poll conducted in all of Afghanistan's 34 provinces says.
Residents of two key southern provinces, Helmand and Kandahar, that have been the focus of US military operations over the past year say aspects of their security and living conditions have improved significantly since last December.
Nationwide, more than half of Afghans interviewed said US and NATO forces should begin to leave the country in mid-2011 or earlier. More Afghans than a year ago see the United States as playing a negative role in Afghanistan, and support for President Barack Obama's troop surge has faded, the Washington Post reported.
A year ago, 61 per cent of Afghans supported the deployment of 30,000 additional US troops. In the new poll, 49 per cent support the move, with 49 per cent opposed.
After a big drop last year, more than a quarter of Afghans again say attacks against US and other foreign military forces are justifiable.
In the past, Karzai has suggested the US should focus more intently on rooting out Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan, and shift its emphasis in Afghanistan to development work.
Overall, nearly three-quarters of Afghans now believe their government should pursue negotiations with the Taliban, with almost two-thirds willing to accept a deal allowing Taliban leaders to hold political office. Nearly a third of adults see the Taliban as more moderate today than they were when they ruled the country.
Meanwhile, support for the Taliban has jumped in Kandahar, where 45 per cent now hold favorable views of the group. The same 45 per cent of Kandahar residents see the Taliban as having a strong presence in their area.
But nationwide support for the Taliban remains tepid. Afghans overwhelmingly prefer the current government over the Taliban, and almost three in four continue to say it was good that the US military toppled the Taliban in 2001, although that number is nine points lower than it was a year ago.